A Better Marriage with One Simple Change: The Art of Viewpoint

Guest post by minister’s wife, Lori Bradeen. She breathes hope and courage into marriages by speaking to groups of women. For interest in her ministry contact her at City Life Spokane. Have a message? Check out the guest post guidelines.

Abstract Marriage

I always thought that abstract art was an excuse for untalented, wanna-be artists, but I have been converted. As I twisted my head and closed one eye, a black funnel emptying into a mess of fiery reds became a beautiful mountain that touched the colorful sunset sky.

viewpoint

Viewing abstract art is a lot like viewing marriage. (Tweetable)

What normally looks like underwear left on the floor, dishes by the couch, and toilet paper that never makes it into its proper holder is really beauty in action. Even my husband’s lack of appreciation for inspired cuisine void of red meat and carbohydrates as well as his inability to distinguish a face cloth from a dish rag is wonderment.

I’ll admit these things alone leave me wanting. Yet, I have learned that their beauty can only be seen when they come together on the canvas of love, respect and acceptance.

The beauty of marriage comes together on the canvas of love, respect and acceptance. (Tweetable)

Marriage Masterpiece

I have grown to love abstract art so much that I now have a masterpiece in my home.

Marriage Masterpiece

  • The man whose underwear and dishes I’ve been picking up for twenty-four years is the same man who has worked three jobs at times so that I could stay home with our kids.
  • The man who hates shopping is the same man who endures a chick flick and patiently waits on a bench in the mall if I insist he be my shopping buddy.
  • He’s the same man who has what it took to raise my boys into men even when I had to bite my mama-bear tongue in the face of his toughness.
  • The man who rarely cleans a toilet bowl is the same man who prays and seeks heaven’s direction in leading this family.
  • He is the man who bought me small pajamas (from a sporting goods store) because he hadn’t noticed that I don’t wear the same size as I did the day we wed.
  • He’s the one who will skip the raspberry vinaigrette but will drive back to the drive through to get my favorite special sauce that didn’t make it in the sack.
  • He’s the one who still can’t read my mind, but has mastered the art of an agreeable nod when tensions rise.

He is my masterpiece of abstract art.

Second Look Beauty

Some couples wish they had picked differently in their marriage. They’ve become dissatisfied. The bumps and scratches along the years left them disillusioned. The sweet smell of new love has long gone. Left instead is the lingering smell of sour milk.

These moments are the perfect time to head to the art gallery of marriage to tilt our head a little. Tilt it more. Squint. Heck, we can toss our glasses if it helps us find the beauty in our marriage.

There’s beauty in our abstract marriages: a beautiful sunset hidden inside that mess of color.

I will admit however, that some days I squint at the man who is standing on his head, glasses removed, looking back at me.

Notice: No judgement here on messy marriages! WE ALL have them. (Tweetable)

Question: How is your marriage like a disorderly mess of color?  And how can you focus on the masterpiece in your mate?

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Tips and Motivation on How to Get Back into Work After a Break

Vacation

I went on vacation.

Vacation from work. Vacation from writing. From business. From routine life. I intentionally didn’t think about anything work related.

It was a blast!

Doesn’t this look like a great place to lose yourself?

Hilton Head

Yes, we went to Hilton Head Island. My first time to visit this grand place.

While in a rented condo, I found a book by Jimmy Buffett called A Salty Piece of Land. The cover invited me to sit on the beach with my feet in the water. I had to go there, so I started reading. I didn’t get far with all the bike-riding, zip-lining, and paddle-boarding type activities we had planned. Before I knew it we were back in the car headed home without my ever getting to chapter 3.

Grinding out the Return

The direction of Frankie’s headlights (that is our appropriately named old ’97 Avalon: “Frankie Avalon”) made me regret getting back to work, routine, and regular life.

I just wanted to read, to prolong the fun stuff, and keep away from the drive to perform. I just wanted to be. To be me. Do what I wanted, when I wanted. Have no worries. No troubles. No … nothing required.

After I got home, I kept trying to live that way, but found myself drifting, listless and purposeless. After all, A Salty Piece of Land was left behind and what could I do?

I was almost depressed.

A Salty Piece of Land

Am I the only one who has trouble getting back into the swing of things after a vacation?

Search for Motivation and Starting Again

During my listless days, I read one woman’s idea. The day before her vacation, she made a to do list for the day she would return. That way she didn’t have to remember where she was in her work or what needed to be done next.

(Tweetable) The day before your break, make a to-do list for the day you get back.

For me, starting always seems the hardest part–or is that finishing? Either way, I didn’t have her foresight and consequently I flopped.

Eventually, I reinstated my regular habit of reading God’s word and prayer journaling. Yes, regretfully, I even went on vacation from some spiritual disciplines. (Please don’t throw stones or rotten fruit. I’m just a girl doing her best–most of the time.)

And as soon as I got back to spiritual endeavors, I found part of my cure: the fix for my losing of heart, the listlessness of not wanting to work, the purposeless of life. Once again I found the freedom in being me that I wanted was in giving my everything to God. (Not just giving lip comments or commitments, or adhering to the precepts of men or traditions of religion, but wholly submitting self to God, a life totally given to God’s plan.) I am his and I do his work.

(Tweetable) Freedom in being yourself is in giving your all to God.

I gained purpose for my work and life again.

That’s all the help I’ve got for getting back into the swing of things.
1. Make a post-vacation to do list before you leave.
2. Gain respect for spiritual disciplines. They give direction.
3. …What have you got?

Surely I’m not alone in post-vacation blahs. I’m certain there are other ways of getting motivated that you’ve used successfully. Maybe some absolute failures too. Please share in comments.

Question: So how do you do it? What actions, plans, attitudes, or motivations help you get back to work?

 

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How can I get Confidence and Avoid Anxiety or Depression?

Anxiety and depression do not have to be our only option. We have another choice. But the truth is

Stress and suffering are inevitable.

We hate to hear it, and the truth hurts sometimes. But that doesn’t change the fact that we can’t be removed from stress and suffering forever. No matter how much we try to avoid it, it will catch us now and then.

The game changer, the tipping point, or the deal breaker is found in how we react to it. What we do with it when it comes our way? Lately, I’ve had some eye-opening examples of stress from my chicken coop.

Egg Full of Life

When a chicken lays an egg, that hen squawks and squawks, carrying on like there’s a skunk in the coop. The sound is quite alarming. To the novice listener, an eminent danger must be threatening the chickens. “It’s just a hen laying an egg,” I’ll explain. But it is stressful for the hen. On a few occasions, a hen will leave some blood spots on the eggshell as she delivers.

Any woman who’s delivered a baby can relate to the stress and suffering of a hen as she lays an egg.

I know.

I did it . . .

three times . . .

naturally.

In the middle of each one, I said, “I’m never going to do this again.”

The only reason I can figure out why I did it 3 times is . . . God.

God gave me forgetfulness.

That has to be it. No one in their right mind would volunteer for that kind of stress and suffering over and over. God had to make me forget it . . . because I’m really not the masochistic kind.

Wind Egg

Nevertheless, late one morning I went out to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. That’s when I found something strange. I was puzzled about how it happened. How it got in the coop? What was it exactly? I found this strange diminutive egg in with the others. Take a look for yourself. It is pictured here with regular eggs.

Wind Egg

I brought it in the house with the others, washed it in the sink, and placed it in a bowl on top of the others (I didn’t want to lose it under the big ones). For days I walked by the bowl wondering about that egg, even asking God about it. “What’s up with that egg?”

Then one day after asking God one more time, a revelational thought occurred. Why not Google it?

So into the Google space I typed, “Why does a hen lay a little egg?” And the answer popped up (Side note: a cool video of a “miracle chicken” that lays ginormous eggs also came up).

This tiny egg is called a wind egg. It’s sort of a real egg, in that a regular laying hen laid it and not some strange mysterious bird. It has a real shell and a real white. But there is a big flaw. There is no yolk. It is void of that which produces real life. I read that a hen lays wind eggs because they are stressed. Here are three of the most common wind egg situations:

  • A young hen under the stress of change may lay her first egg as a wind egg.
  • An older hen may lay a wind egg due to the stress of being older.
  • And a stressed laying hen may occasionally lay a wind egg.

As in the case with eggs, stress and suffering is inevitable.

Two different outcomes come from stress and suffering.

  1. They can bring forth life and purpose or
  2. They can produce a shriveled, shrunk existence that is far short of really living.

Yet, the outcome is our choice.

  1. Do we deal poorly with suffering, becoming bitter, complaining, empty shells of who we were meant to be?
  2. Or do we handle suffering with faith–trusting God for the adventure that is our life–and really live?

The choice is ours. Will we be a wind egg? Or will we be an egg full of life?

How do you deal with stress and suffering? How do you avoid becoming bitter? And How do you find purpose in suffering and gain a richer life?

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How to Prepare Kids for Easter: Thriving Family Excerpt

“I don’t like Nana’s church because they’re mean to Jesus!” My 4-year-old bee lined for the door of my mother-in-law’s church. The Easter drama had just finished as big hot, angry tears hung in his eyes. And . . .

Cross

Well, It’s spring again. Easter is coming quickly and I thought I’d share with you some ways to help the children in your life. Many people. kids especially, need to deal with and understand Easter better (tweet).

I wrote a feature on this topic for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine. Here are some of the learning activities:

Dinner with Jesus
Set a blanket on the floor to eat your evening meal together as a family. Talk about what happened during the last meal that Jesus shared with His friends (Matthew 26:17). Consider preparing an authentic Passover meal. You can find instructions at ThrivingFamily.com. Search for “Passover Lamb.”

The Cross
Place a light landscaping timber in your yard that’s about your child’s height. Ask your child to drag it from one side of the yard to another, then help him try to hammer a nail into it. Discuss what it may have felt like for Jesus to have His hand under the nail. Explain that being nailed to the Cross would have been painful, but it was more painful for Jesus to carry the sin of the whole world.

You can read more ideas for Easter and children activities to help a child at A Journey to Easter online, the full feature with many more playful activities demonstrating Easter in tangible fun.

And to update you, my son didn’t turn his back on church in the end. With many conversations and training, he was better prepared and able to understand the implications of the Easter story.

Do you have children in your life, neighborhood, or church that need a better understanding of Easter? What stories, ideas and traditions do you use? Share in the comments.

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Photo courtesy of mmagallan / freepik.com

2 Statements that Shape the Success of Your Work, Ministry and Life

I stood at the door watching a nervously busy woman get slides ready and scanned the empty rows of chairs.

Do I really want to attend a seminar titled “How to Create a Mission Statement”?

Empty Chairs

Not only did the topic seem boring, but the instructor . . . well, she didn’t seem to have her stuff together and, by the looks of it, her presentation would be uninspiring as well.

But since I didn’t have much else to do, I went in and took a seat. The room filled and by the time the session began, she was so nervous she hardly had a voice.

I nailed this one with my first instinct, or so I thought.

Boy was I wrong, not about her nervousness or the dry topic, but about the inspiring part.

Her shoulders straightened and her voice strengthened somewhat as she said, “I’m going to show you how a mission statement can help you follow God and make you more effective and focused in your work. You’ll be able to achieve your goals—and God’s plans—much quicker (Tweet that).”

I was blown away. That’s exactly what I wanted to know. How to be more effective and achieve more. So, I leaned in . . .

With what I discovered in that class, I created both a vision statement and a mission statement.

What is a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement

  • A mission statement is a couple of sentences that summarize what we do. If you will, it is our current calling that keeps us focused on our mission.
  • A vision statement is a list of our dreams we want to accomplish. It is our future-self looking back and saying, “I had a dream to (fill in the blank) and with God’s help, I did it.”

As I went through the exercises to create these statements, I felt like I discovered myself. My passion for the work I wanted to do was written down and it held some wonderful power over me. I was empowered to do the hard work of creating it.

Creating the 2 Statements

Because I’m a dreamer of awesome possibilities, I found it easy to create the vision statement. I dreamed of what I wanted to accomplish and wrote it down. Not the random stuff of a bucket list, but the grand stuff of what I’d do or create if I had no limitations. These what-if dreams become more concrete when written down.

But the mission statement was more difficult. I had to think about the actions I would do in working within my vision then answer these questions:

  1. What three verbs encapsulate what I did?
  2. Who did I do it for?
  3. And what was my purpose in doing it?

After finding the answers, I strung them together, made a sentence or two, and called it my mission statement.

These two statements gave me both freedom and direction. They guide my daily work and keep me accountable to finishing God’s plan for my life.

If you want to read up some more about mission statements, check out Laurie Beth Jones’ The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and Life (affiliate link).

What about you? Do you have personal statements like these? If so, how do they help you be a finisher?

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Photo courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Christmas Prayer from Max Lucado

Sometimes a good prayer comforts us (Tweet this). I read a Max Lucado prayer on the Exponential church growth blog and wanted to share it with you. Be encouraged and know the closeness of God this Christmas.

20121220-091243.jpgDear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,

Your Children

Prayer gives relief from much trouble and grief in our world. May you know the depth of friendship, hope of the future, and the love of God this Christmas!!

What gives you comfort in dark days and days when nothing goes right? How do you keep courage?

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9 Gift Christmas List and a Seussical Solution

Tis the season to be stressed, depressed and obsessed.

Sometimes when I doodle, words come very Seussical. It’s loads of fun writing; hope it’s as much fun reading.

SeussTree

(The Dr. Seuss Christmas trees picture is courtesy of I am only 1 woman blog and she has instructions to create this kid-friendly craft. Check it out!)

Seussical Christmas Solution

What gift will we bring?

How will we pay for the thing?

Who will we see, or not see, at the fling?

Christmas is stressful.

And at times very depressful. (Tweet that if you want.)

We miss those we love,

because of distance

or living above,

Or relationships turn sour

‘till happiness isn’t ours,

Or schedules are too busy

to sit back, and take Christmas easy.

But when we do—

take time for reflection,

we find this season is for being . . . well, Christian. (Tweet it)

Giving the gift that cost us most,

The gift of love from coast to coast,

Taking our gift to the unlikely, or unlovable, host.

Say goodbye to the mall,

the stress,

the sadness

And say hello to all,

the goodness,

the fullness,

The Christmas.

That’s my Seussical Christmas solution. Should it be a book in production? Well, here you have it for free. My gift to you for eternity. I really have got to stop this. Instead, I’ll show you my Christmas list.

My Grown-up Christmas List

I want these for myself, for you and everyone else.

  1. Peace
  2. Thankfulness
  3. Rest
  4. Health
  5. Good relationships
  6. Opportunities
  7. Reflection
  8. Renewed thoughts
  9. Passion for God

What would you add? What do you want on your grown-up list? For yourself? For others?

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How to Painstakingly Avoid Hope that Fails

New Hope

This sign is posted on the road to my house. The arrow seems to point down a dirt road. I have no idea what is down there, but it must be a new hope of some kind.

Same Old Hope

Seeing that sign made me want to build a similar one: “Same Old Hope” with an arrow pointing the other way, for no other reason than that I live on the other side of the road.

Why would I want to post a sign like that?

Because I think it would be funny for the drivers along the road. I love to find humor in life. Laughing is my favorite sport. And on top of that, I’m sort of a smart-aleck.

But I do have another, more thoughtful reason.

Strong Desires

I first saw the New Hope sign on the Friday after our nation’s election. I don’t think the sign relates to anything about the election. Nevertheless, we had hopes for it. It didn’t matter how the vote went or who we supported, we all had some hopes related to the election.

We also have hope in other things. We hope our finances will work out, that we’ll get a raise or an awesome job. We hope our relationships will be great or get better. We hope our kids turn out right. We hope we stay healthy or get healthier. We hope we have enough money to retire. We hope to take a vacation and do some awesome bucket list kinds of things. We hope that one day, we’ll wake up and everything about life will be just as we want it.

All of these are hopes for something new, a wish that things were—well, different. It’s a new hope. And I’ve had those just like the rest of us. But these hopeful wishes aren’t a sustaining hope.

Real hope is …

my Same Old Hope. It’s living. It’s consistent. It’s always solid and never wishy-washy. In the face of marital ruin and troubles with kids, Same Old Hope was there for me. When struggling with health issues, Same Old Hope had my back. During times when the bills outpaced the money, Same Old Hope held my sanity. No matter what earth shattering circumstances or joy filled situations, my Same Old Hope has remained steadfast.

My Same Old Hope has been mine since I was a kid. It is my hope in Jesus. Even though my body fades or my plans fail, Jesus has a purpose for me that never fades and never fails. I have confidence that Jesus will prevail and give me that place of peace and purpose: a heavenly presence. My Same Old Hope gives meaning to life and purpose when the “new hopes” fall flat.

Real hope is living, consistent and divine. (Go ahead. Tweet that if you wish.)

Jesus is our Same Old Hope. (Tweet that.)

How to Painstakingly Avoid Hope that Fails (Tweet that.)

Have you ever been disappointed by hopes denied? Ever found that Jesus was the only hope that remained steady? How do you balance hope on lasting things when comforts of life are what we crave?

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Who Validates You?

Do you need to have validation from some entity to do what you think you ought to do?

Validation

What if you’re creative? Do you have to have some kind of permission to create something that wasn’t there before?

As time goes by and you see others doing what you ought to do, do you think it’s too late? That you’re washed up?

Who validated the successful people when they started to do what seems an incredible step for you?

Who was in their corner to encourage them to start and who remained there when failure seemed imminent?

Who validated them? But more importantly…

Who validates you?

For me, my validation comes from God.

I get into trouble when I seek approval anywhere else. For example:

  • If in people:  When I do something right, I might gain some measure of praise. It is a fickle validation. It comes and goes with the tide of performance.
  • If in success: when I accomplish some success, elation may take me to the top, but when I fail, I can slump off into depressed inaction, which tends to make me feel invalidated. Since both success and failure are part of the growing process, success is not a good place to gain validation.

No, I want my validation to come from God who created me and calls me his own. He thinks I’m awesome; the apple of his eye.

Once that question is settled, then have faith in your validation and get to work. It won’t be easy, but it fulfills your purpose. And I’m thinking you’ll feel much less miserable in doing the work.

A Great Video about Validation

If you have 15 minutes, watch this video. It proves the value of validation. Please answer the questions below.

What about you? Who validates you? What approval, permission or encouragement do you require to do what you ought?

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Photo courtesy of video from hughnewman1024